reading women

Margaret Cho on the Book That Changed How She Thought About Asian-American History

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In Reading Women, the Cut talks to women who interest us about the books by women that transformed the way they think.

I first found The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, in my parents’ bookstore in the early ’90s. I was 15 or 16, and was just starting to do comedy. The book was a huge hit; I remember everyone talking about how you had to read it. It’s so involving — one of those things you just get in and can’t get out. You see the lives of these women, and you think about all the women who came before you.

Reading it really changed the way I thought about Asian-American history. Our heritage has a lot of difficult stuff in it — a lot of misogyny, a lot of fear and rage and death. It showed me a past that reached beyond borders and languages and cultures to bring together these disparate elements of who we are. I hadn’t seen our history like that before. At that time, we hadn’t seen a lot of Asian-American representations anywhere, so it was a big deal that it even existed. It made me feel validated and seen. That’s what’s so important about books like that. You feel like, Oh my god, I exist here. I exist in this landscape of literature and memoir. I’m here, and I have a story to tell, and it’s among the cannon of Asian-American stories that are feminist and that are true to our being. It’s a book that has stayed with me and lived in me.

Margaret Cho’s latest comedy show, “Fresh Off the Bloat,” is on tour now.

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Margaret Cho on the Book That Changed Her